Aboriginal youth hope to inspire others at annual conference

A conference was held in our city this weekend, focusing on educating aboriginal youth in Edmonton.

Over 800 people took part in the 20th annual Dreamcatcher Aboriginal Youth Conference at Grant MacEwan University. The conference provides opportunities for young people to learn about a number of topics ranging from career and educational opportunities, to drug use and youth suicide.

Conference Organizer, Carolynn Kane says while a number of things have changed over the past 20 years of the conference, a lot of the issues teenagers deal with have remained the same.

“If they’re dealing with gangs in the community, if they’re dealing with drug related issues, dealing with death and suicide, we can talk to those straight talk issues, that has been a constant.”

17-year-old Northstar Stonechild-Peequaquat is part of the Touchwood Agency Tribal Council (TATC) United Youth Group. He says he went through a lot of hardships in the early part of his life, growing up with an alcoholic father.

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“The first 10 years of my life I was surrounded with drugs and alcohol,” said Stonechild-Peequaquat adding, “I kind of molded myself to the negative life and looked up to that negative life and, kind of, just thinking ‘oh yeah, I might be a gang leader some day if I do the right things’ but, really, that’s not right thing, you’re just going the wrong way.”

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He says joining the youth group and taking part in this conference has taught him that life is about overcoming obstacles, not becoming involved in them.

“If I didn’t have those obstacles in my way I wouldn’t be who I am today, to be able to run against all the (negativity), run against the odds of us aboriginal people, because we have a lot of odds stacked against us.”

“We’re the final generation to be able to flip that stone, we give it the extra push to show the positive side of us aboriginals,” explained Stonechild-Peequaquat adding, “Do we want to throw the weight we have onto other people? Because, they might not be able to do it, so we might as well take the opportunity now to achieve what we want and what we need to strive for.”

Stonechild-Peequaquat hopes to use his story to inspire others. Teens from the TACT United Youth Group recently put together a video on the impact alcoholism has on kids and posted it on YouTube, in hopes that people will listen and learn from their stories.

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With files from Nancy Carlson.


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